I’ve never cared much about camera gear but throughout my 26 years taking and making photos I do swap things out when my equipment is not serving it’s purpose. When cameras or lenses sit on shelves for too long I sell them. I recently sold some lenses that were collecting dust and sold my Mamiya 645/lenses to buy a Mamiya 7 and a 65mm f4 lens. I’ve had the Mamiya 7 for about two months now and have only put about 5 rolls of film through it as it was in the shop getting serviced for a bit. Here’s the scoop:
Upon arrival I tested the camera and thought the focusing seemed off (which I’ve heard is typical of these cameras). After I processed my film in the darkroom half were blurry and half came out sharp. Anything I photographed at f8 - f22 seemed good, anything at f4 and f5.6 seemed really hard to focus. This is the first rangefinder camera I’ve ever used in my life so that might have been why but it also just seemed off in both manual focusing and zone focusing. So I dropped the body and lens off to Soren at Eurotech Camera in Austin (who I trust to service all of my photo equipment, he’s great!) and he fixed the focusing issue.
Recently the camera came with me to the PNW and I was kinda scared to shoot at any aperture other than f8, the rangefinder still spooks me and I’m pretty clumsy at zone focusing (but getting better). My sweet spot is usually 28mm so I’m really liking the 32mm focal distance and trying to get used to composing my scene with the rangefinder. I can’t figure out the internal spot meter for the life of me so until I do I’ve been using my handheld incident meter which is fool proof. I have some things to get used to with this camera but here’s what I’ve found so far:
6x7cm negatives, duh.
65mm (the equivalent of like a 32mm or so) lens is phenomenal
SLR style body very comfortable to hold and carry for longer periods of time
super easy to travel with
shutter leaf lens means I can hand hold the camera at 1/15 (mostly unheard of for medium format cameras…bye mirror slap)
easy to use/no distractions/no frills
film/quality of the negatives…swoon
incredibly quiet/stealthy (the shutter is a tiny little click)
Things I Need To Get Used To (it’s not the camera’s fault)
using a rangefinder
learning how to use the internal spot meter
remembering to take the damn lens cap off. Yes, it’s happened EVERY ROLL so far
10 frames instead of 15 (or in my case 8 frames due to leaving the lens cap on, ha)
no more f2.8 :(
minimum focusing distance of 1m (around 3 feet)
Obviously I’m still getting used to how the camera functions but I would say I finally found the camera that produces the type of negatives I’ve been wanting to shoot my whole life. The quality of the 6x7 negative makes me feel like I’m part of the scene. Obviously 4x5 and 8x10 do the same and even more so, but I was never able to get that with 35mm or 645 and even 6x6. I do still love 35mm for working quick and always will.
After 10 rolls and some more tests I’m sure I’ll be more used to the rangefinder eventually. I’m curious about trying portraits at f4, photographing vertical, and trying out more film stocks. I tend to prefer softer and muted tones that I get from Kodak Portra or Kodak TMAX 400 but am itching to try Kodak Ektar in super harsh light to see what kind of color pops I can get. Also curious to try TMAX 100 rated at ISO 50 and maybe try some Kodak TriX too. I’m just getting started with this camera so maybe I’ll do a film comparison soonish.
In the meantime all photos are 120 film, Kodak Portra 400, rated at ISO 200, processed at box speed, and scanned at home on an Epson V800.